Blogging: Categories Vs. Tags

If I could do it all over again, I would have questioned this before I started setting up my blogs. Yet here I am — well into my business and still wondering — What is the deal with categories versus tags on blogs? What purpose does each serve? Which one is better? Do we need to use both?

After a bit of research reading other articles on this topic¬†and another reflective look at my own blogs — these are some of the answers that I have found.

1. First we need to talk about link juice. If you are into search engine optimization (SEO) at all, then you understand that if you have a lot of outgoing links on your homepage, essentially you are losing your ‘link juice’. That’s why there are wordpress plugins or themes (such as thesis) which permit you to enable a “no follow” rule on links that may be pointing to your archives or other internal pages.

When you have a lot of these internal links on your home page, it begins to dilute the importance of all the other links you may have on the page as well. Thus limiting the overall importance of your site — which means lower results in the search engines. So having said all of that (whew!), that’s why it is better to be more selective about your category and tags so as to not bog down your site with tons of internal links.

So what’s the solution? We all need to take a look at our blogs and make a decision. We want to direct readers to all of our informative content, keep them on the site, but we also want to construct our blogs in a way that attracts a steady stream of organic traffic from the search engines. So the answer is – to keep it simple.

2. Let’s talk about categories. While many bloggers use categories in many different ways, it’s safe to say that most people use categories as an overall filing system for your blog’s content. If you write articles about fruit on your site, then you may have categories for apples, peaches, pears, strawberries, and oranges.

When you want to talk about California oranges vs. Florida oranges, that’s when bloggers take two different approaches. Some will create sub-categories under ‘oranges’, one for Florida and one for California.

3. Then other bloggers will create tags. You can write an article under the category of “oranges” and then tag it with the words Florida or California. When you use tags on your blog, it gives you the option of creating a “tag cloud” that you can put in your sidebar. Some blog readers find tag clouds to be “clutter”. Other blog readers (like myself) actually find tag clouds useful so that you can go directly to the topic that you are interested in. For some reason I zone out on category lists in sidebars.

So which should you choose? Well, from what I can see, the real question to ask yourself is if your content is organized simply, and if your readers can access the content they want to with one click of a mouse. Apparently, whether you use categories or tags to achieve this doesn’t matter to your readers nor the search engines.

Bottom line–create the structure that makes the most sense to you. Just keep it simple. I had to go back into this site and eliminate tons of tags. I had the habit of writing an article and throwing on a couple of tags. Bad idea. Next thing I knew, I had a zillion tags. So it did start to look like a lot of clutter.

Another point about this is that if you have a ton of categories and tags on your blog, you may want to revisit your site’s topic. The key to successfully attracting and keeping subscribers to your content is to provide very specific and focused information in your niche. If you sell fruit but wrote and tagged an article on chicken, you may not really be optimally serving your readers.

Or you could just not be using your categories and tags effectively. Remember to try your best to categorize your content under categories/tags you have already created and not create new one after new one — because you don’t take the time to place your article(s) under the already established category/tag.

Categories Vs. Tags? Well I like to use a mixture of both. Categories as the main topics and tags as sub-topics of those categories; but the best answer is to create your category/tag structure in the way that you use other people’s blogs AND in the way that makes sense for your readers.

How do you use categories and tags on your blog?

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Lisa,

    Strange – I just had a similar epiphany, and been through the same exercise of getting rid of useless tags, and linking articles together more effectively!

    Categories and tags are one of those questions that people keep asking about – must be a business opportunity in there somewhere!

    I like the way you’ve used Thesis.

    Cheers,

    Martin.

    Martin Maldens last blog post..Variable Width Websites: Another One Converted

    • says

      Hey Martin,
      I tell ‘ya, I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my blog. Same thing with switching to thesis from revolution. Everything is a little lighter and simpler which I thinks makes all the difference for usability and then of course SEO curb appeal. Thanks for dropping by.
      Lisa

  2. says

    Hi Lisa,

    Strange – I just had a similar epiphany, and been through the same exercise of getting rid of useless tags, and linking articles together more effectively!

    Categories and tags are one of those questions that people keep asking about – must be a business opportunity in there somewhere!

    I like the way you’ve used Thesis.

    Cheers,

    Martin.

    Martin Maldens last blog post..Variable Width Websites: Another One Converted

    • says

      Hey Martin,
      I tell ‘ya, I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my blog. Same thing with switching to thesis from revolution. Everything is a little lighter and simpler which I thinks makes all the difference for usability and then of course SEO curb appeal. Thanks for dropping by.
      Lisa

  3. says

    Thanks, Lisa. Being new to blogging (and self-taught) I was confused about categories and tags, also. This can be a little daunting to non-techie folk. Now, I will go and clean up my blog.

    • says

      It was a beast cleaning up the tags at first – but i love that I did it. It was worth the time. My content ranks much better in the natural search results. Much success with it Flo.

  4. says

    Thanks, Lisa. Being new to blogging (and self-taught) I was confused about categories and tags, also. This can be a little daunting to non-techie folk. Now, I will go and clean up my blog.

    • says

      It was a beast cleaning up the tags at first – but i love that I did it. It was worth the time. My content ranks much better in the natural search results. Much success with it Flo.

  5. says

    Wow, Lisa! What Gems! I love the information and how you stick to the topic. Many good lessons for me! How to unscramble the thoughts using the series articles (new term but you know what I mean). I’ll be reading more and happy to have you as a friend! I’ll be writing more meaningfully from now on! God Bless! Thank you!

  6. says

    Wow, Lisa! What Gems! I love the information and how you stick to the topic. Many good lessons for me! How to unscramble the thoughts using the series articles (new term but you know what I mean). I’ll be reading more and happy to have you as a friend! I’ll be writing more meaningfully from now on! God Bless! Thank you!

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